Community Colleges: The Great American Invention!

Dear Commons Community,

Joe Nocera applauds the role of the community colleges in his New York Times column today.  Nocera quotes Eduardo Padron, the President of Miami-Dada Community Colleges (enrollment of 174,000 students),  who states:

“Community colleges are the great American invention in terms of education,” …Their raison d’être has always been to help grease the wheels of social mobility. But, in their earlier incarnation, they were primarily seen as a passageway to a university degree… Now with the skills gap such a pressing problem — and a high school education so clearly inadequate for the modern economy — the task of teaching those skills is falling to community colleges. There really isn’t another institution as well positioned to play that role.”

Padron then makes the point that we need to be investing in community colleges:

“I wish I could say that state legislatures were pouring resources into community colleges, but, of course, I can’t. Many state governments have ravaged the budgets of their community college systems, just as they have for many state university systems. In Florida, said Padrón, community colleges have seen their state support drop by 21 percent in three years. “State support used to account for 75 percent of our budget,” he said. “Now it is only 45 percent.” As a result, tuition at Miami Dade is $3,000 a year — a lot of money for people of little means. Given what’s at stake, it would be hard to imagine anything more shortsighted than paring back support for community colleges.”

Shortsighted indeed.


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